Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Book Review: Living Dead in Dallas, by Charlaine Harris

Living Dead in Dallas is the second book in Charlaine Harris's Sookie Stackhouse series, and the basis for the second season of True Blood. It follows the adventures of Sookie Stackhouse, redneck vampire fucker, as stuff happens to her in her small hometown of Bon Temps, then different stuff happens in the titular (bwahah, tit) Dallas, then in Bon Temps again.

Most of what I said about Dead Until Dark still applies here. Harris's writing is full of personality and small moments of brilliance that almost make up for the rest of the awkward prose. It's nice light beach reading, though, because of both the simple writing and the tendency for characters to mindlessly repeat events that just happened (sometimes on the previous page), ensuring that if you get distracted there will always be a "previously on True Bl- Living Dead in Dallas" style review.

The plot is kinda interesting, but I don't think it's appropriate to describe this book (or the last one) as a detective story or murder mystery. First of all, there are pretty much two entirely separate stories in the book. The main plot taking place in Dallas has nothing to do with the murder occuring on the first page. Second, the murder plot that bookends the Dallas stuff is only a detective story in the Harry Potter sense: i.e., the main character happens to be around when the rest of the characters spell out the solution to the mystery then proceed to resolve it, but she didn't do much "detecting" other than knowing where to show up.

I also need to comment on some of the, uh, "character flaws" here. Sookie is a selfish, petty, and manipulative "hero." Her biggest worries seem to be not about the safety of her loved ones, nor even her own safety, but rather the state of her hair, and whether she is wearing an appropriate outfit or not. Seriously, she cries over messy hair. She is also willfully stupid, specifically refusing to think through actions that destroy others' lives. Her boyfriend has the excuse of being a vampire, but he's not entirely innocent either; he's a bit of an abusive rapist who thinks all problems can be solved with sex, violence, or violent sex. But Sookie seems to fully agree, so maybe it's a match made in heaven.

Just like the TV show, Living Dead in Dallas is glorious cheesy mess of violence, sex and character drama that, even if not thrown together very tactfully or providing any heartfelt messages about doing the right thing, is damn entertaining. Which is why I will resist the urge to end this review with "hah! More like Living Dead in Dallass".

Oops.

14 comments:

Shora said...

Hmmm, thanks, think I'll skip the books and stick to the show. LOVE the show. And there I don't have to just imagine the six packs. Yowza. (I'm so shallow)

Anonymous said...

Smart more Shora.

Tatiana said...

I too just ripped through season one of True Blood in a marathon fashion, and because I read like it's going out of style, the whole series is on my kitchen counter right now. Can't wait - I'm not hoping for a literary effort here, just cheap thrills.

Phronk said...

Shora: Not a bad idea. The books are good, but the show actually adds in even more plot, and also abs and boobs.

And yeah, smart more.

Tatiana: Nice! Yep it's definitely good for cheap thrills. Hope you enjoy them.

Hey Lady! said...

Wow. I have read a lot of reviews for this book (and written one myself) and yours is quite different. Maybe because you're a guy, and lets face it, these books mostly appeal to women. While a lot of what you said was true, I'm just never heard it put that way. Hmmm I'm at a loss... That seldom happens.

Phronk said...

I enjoyed your review of the book. Your promise that the series gets better really inspired me to keep reading it.

I'm curious...what is so different about my review compared to others?

Hey Lady! said...

First off yours is far more blunt ("Sookie Stackhouse, redneck vampire fucker"). It's also not a raving endorsement or a slam of how terrible it was. Most of the other review are either women LOVING the romance between Sookie and Bill, or the potential romance of Sookie and Eric. Or woman who think the books are sexist and make Southern women look stupid (like the crying over the messed up hair you mentioned). Personally, the 3rd book is my favorite, but not sure it'll be yours...

Interesting that you called Bill a rapist after reading this book...

Phronk said...

A harsh word I guess, but he does force himself upon Sookie more than he should.

Yeah I'm pretty ambivalent about the books so far. There's lot of both good and bad in there.

Jennifer said...

All I know, is I doubt I can read these books due to the main character being called Sookie. WTF kind of name is that anyways?

Besides, it's taken me like 15 years to get around to reading the original hyped up Vampiric crap by Anne Rice. And oh yes, it is crap.

Hey Lady! said...

"Dead Until Dark" is an easy read, it's not like Anne Rice. IF you like vampire fiction, it's worth a try. And yeah, it's tough to get past the main character's name, but the rest of the books are sort of light hearted so it almost fits.

Dyl said...

I read the first four in this series a while back, when I also used to read Laurell K Hamilton and others in the genre. They were a fun read, but after a while it all got a bit samey for my liking. :-(

I haven't watched the TV show; I may visit it given the positive comments above...

Tatiana said...

As per my comment above, I read lots. And fast. And I've just reached book six, so I thought I'd touch base again. For me the series reach their apotheosis at book four. Since then I'm noticing a slow decline into improbability and incoherent plotlines.

But in the spirit of cheap thrills it didn't stop me from just buying books eight and nine, so I guess I haven't hit my bottom yet.... :)

Can't wait to read your subsequent reviews.

Phronk said...

Holy crap, you read fast!

Too bad they go down in quality, but that seems to be inevitable with most series. Maybe authors should write the entire series then release them in reverse order.

Might be a while before my next reviews; I'm taking a break from the series, and unlike you, I take a month or two per book. :)

Hey Lady! said...

I guess it's a matter of taste. I think some of the later books (the 7th and 9th, for example) are far better then the 2nd.